Luggage Comparo: 1) Wolfman Rolie bags

Sure, we'd all like to ride off to the Amargosa Desert - but what luggage are you going to use to get there? Photo: Wikipedia
Sure, we’d all like to ride off to the Amargosa Desert – but what luggage are you going to use to get there? Photo: Wikipedia

Introduction

A good set of luggage is one of the most useful accessories you can get for your bike. But what should you buy? Even after deciding whether you want hard luggage or soft luggage, there are still many manufacturers to pick from.

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That’s where this comparo starts. Since Rob and I ride many different motorcycles in a year between test bikes and our own personal machines, we decided we’d test luggage with three common features:

1) It had to be rackless. While racks add functionality to a motorcycle, they also add weight and expense.

2) It had to be as universal as possible so different people could test it. It was no good buying KLR-specific luggage if it wouldn’t work on my DR650.

3) It had to be waterproof. Or at least claim to be – testing would determine if it was or not.

After discussing our options and making a few calls, we narrowed our choices down to three options: Wolfman’s Rolie bag system, Kriega’s Overlander 30 saddlebags, and Ortlieb’s Moto saddlebags.

While these are universal luggage systems you could conceivably use on many motorcycles, the Rolie and Overlander 30 bags are really aimed at the dual sport market, and the Moto bags are more of a conventional saddlebag.

Today we’re going to look at Rolie bags, from Colorado-based Wolfman.

Wolfman luggage comparo
Wolfman’s Rolie system is up first in this comparo. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

Wolfman Rolie (approx $250, depending which configuration you order)

The setup

If you do much kayaking or canoeing, chances are you’ve seen dry bags before. The idea is simple: Take a waterproof bag, and put a buckle at the top of it. When you want to waterproof the bag, you roll the top of the bag closed, then buckle it shut. Adventurers use them everywhere.

You can order the Rolie bags in different size combinations; here, Kurylyk uses two medium bags on the sides, and a small bag in the middle. He found this was enough luggage space to last him for five days on the road. Photo: Zac Kurylyk
You can order the Rolie bags in different size combinations; here, Kurylyk uses two medium bags on the sides, and a small bag in the middle. He found this was enough luggage space to last him for five days on the road. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

Of course, some people use regular dry bags when motorcycling, but they’re a bit inconvenient to attach to your bike. That’s where Wolfman’s Rolie system comes in.

Wolfman has taken your standard vinyl dry bag and added several features; most importantly, the bag has a facing with slots that enable you to thread webbing through. You use that webbing to attach the bag to a saddlebag harness, which has several attachment points that allow you to strap the bag down and keep it stable during your ride.

When you look at the bags and harness for the first time, it can be a bit disconcerting. The mess of straps would likely confuse the Gimp from Pulp Fiction. You might even have to – gasp – read the instructions, or watch Wolfman’s YouTube tutorial. But once you grit your teeth and start attaching the saddlebag harness to your bike, and its practicality becomes immediately apparent.

Wolfman recommends users stick to small or medium Rolie bags if they intend to go rackless. Photo: Zac Kurylyk
Wolfman recommends users stick to small or medium Rolie bags if they intend to go rackless. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

Here’s the Wolfman’s system’s biggest advantage: It’s highly modular. Wolfman’s Rolie bags come in three different sizes – small, medium, large – and you can mix and match those bags with the saddlebag harness.

Wolfman claims their bags are waterproof, and they hold up to that claim. Photo: Zac Kurylyk
Wolfman claims their bags are waterproof, and they hold up to that claim. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

Say you want to head out for a day trip into the woods, and you’re traveling light. No problem – just strap two small Rolie bags (about 4.5 litres each) on to the harness. If you want to go out for a longer ride, you can add medium bags (about 8.5 litres each) to the sides.

You can add a third bag to the top of the harness as well. If that’s not enough, you can even strap another smaller bag atop that third bag, giving you a total of four bags and 30 litres of storage.

If you want to ride rackless, you can only use medium or small Rolie bags on the sides of your luggage system; Wolfman recommends you use a rack if you intend to use their large bags (12.5 litres) as saddlebags.

Wolfman's small, medium, and large Rolie bags. From their site, it appears orange bags are no longer available; they're only available in black and yellow these days.
Wolfman’s small, medium, and large Rolie bags cost $45, $55 and $70 respectively each, and the saddlebag harness will cost you around $90, depending where you buy it. From their site, it appears orange bags are no longer available; they’re only available in black and yellow these days.

Not only does all this interchangeability allow you to customize your luggage setup, it also allows you to repair your luggage easily. If you tear one of your bags in a crash, you could easily order a new Rolie bag and replace the ruined one. The webbing is also fairly easy to replace.

Wolfman's Rolie bags strap into this harness; the harness, in turn, straps to your motorcycle.
Wolfman’s Rolie bags strap into this harness; the harness, in turn, straps to your motorcycle.

And, while we won’t cover it here, these Rolie bags are also adaptable to a tank pannier and tank bag system from Wolfman. They’re also available in different colours (we got yellow bags, but they’re available in black too).

How well do they work?

I liked the Rolie bags, except for a couple minor points.

Once I’d installed them on the bike a couple times, it was a quick procedure. They seemed to stay fairly stable throughout use, without moving around on the bike, and I was able to route them safely away from my exhaust, with no need for a shield (some users may need to install a guard so their pipe doesn’t burn a hole in the bag).

Initial installation took a while to figure out, but after that it was a quick procedure. Photo: Zac Kurylyk
Initial installation took a while to figure out, but after that it was a quick procedure. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

Wolfman claims the Rolies are waterproof, and they live up to their claim (they’re also snowproof, in case you wondered – I used them for a late-March trip and had no leakage at all, despite riding through rain, snow and slush).

The Rolie bags are a universal system; with the right strap lengths, users should be able to fit them to most dual sport motorcycles. Depending on your application, you might be able to use them on a street bike as well. Photo: Zac Kurylyk
The Rolie bags are a universal system; with the right strap lengths, users should be able to fit them to most dual sport motorcycles. Depending on your application, you might be able to use them on a street bike as well, though the harness is designed for slimmer derrieres (‘Arris couldn’t get it to fit on the V-Strom. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

While I’m not sure if there’s enough room in the Rolie saddlebags for a round-the-world trip, I had no trouble packing for a five-day trip with three medium bags in the harness. If you wanted to put more space between yourself and the homestead, you could consider tank panniers or other similar options.

The downer, at least for me, was that it’s not as easy to get into these bags as other motorcycle luggage. The small opening at the top of the bag can make it difficult to access whatever you’ve stowed inside, especially for larger items like netbooks or cameras.

Also, the same system that keeps the bags securely in place on the harness also makes it a little tricky to quickly open the bag; to access the contents, you’ve got to undo the strap that stabilizes the bike vertically, and possibly the two side straps. Then you’ve still got to unbuckle the top of the Rolie bag, and unroll it to reach inside. When you close it, you’ve got to make sure you’ve got everything tightened up properly again, so the bag doesn’t move around when you’re underway.

The Wolfman bags sit fairly high; it'd be hard for them to get caught up in your rear wheel in a turn, unless a strap broke. Photo: Zac Kurylyk
The Wolfman bags sit fairly high; it’d be hard for them to get caught up in your rear wheel in a turn, unless a strap broke. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

But, that’s the price of versatility. If these were generic saddlebags, they’d be easier to get into, but they also wouldn’t be as modular, and probably not as stable (especially off-road). The Wolfman system may not be for everyone, but it’s certainly a very intelligent and affordable way to outfit your bike for all-weather travel.

Likes: Versatility, price

Dislikes: A little inconvenient to access bag contents.


GALLERY

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